Defective Premises Act 1972 s1

british landlords associationAlderson v Beetham Organisation Ltd [200 ] EWCA Ci 408; 2 April 200

Limitation period under s1 extended where works undertaken to rectify damage The claimants bought long leases of basement flats in the defendant’s residential development, which was completed in 1994. They complained of damp and remedial works were undertaken. The works did not prevent the damp. In 1995 a chartered surveyor reported that the flats had been constructed in breach of the Defective Premises Act 1972 in that the below-ground accommodation did not have adequate damp proofing. The claimants took no legal action until January 2001. Their claim was that the respondent was in breach of the duty owed to them under the Defective Premises Act 1972 s1. The defendant applied to strike out on the basis that the cause of action accrued on completion of the dwelling in 1994 and that the claim commenced in January 2001 was accordingly statute-barred since it was commenced more than six years after accrual of the cause of action. The claimants relied on s1(5), which provides that any cause of action in respect of a breach of the duty imposed by s1 should be deemed to have accrued at the time when the dwelling was completed, but that, if after that time a person did further work to rectify the work he had already done, any such cause of action in respect of that further work accrued at the time when the further work was finished. The judge granted the application.

The Court of Appeal allowed the claimant’s appeal. Parliament intended that there should be a fresh cause of action for breach of the duty to provide a dwelling fit for habitation when further work did not rectify the original defect as intended. The action was only in respect of that further work, but the further work was for the purpose of rectifying the original work carried out in breach of duty. The claimants’ action was in respect of the work carried out in 1995 and therefore the six-year limitation period in the proviso to s1(5) had not expired when the action was brought.

Andrews v Schooling [ 99 ] WLR 78 ; [ 99 ] All ER 72 ; ( 99 ) 2 HLR , CA Section 1 breached where failure to carry out necessary works when constructing premises

The landlords converted a house and let out the separate flats. The tenant of the ground-floor flat complained of dampness permeating from the cellar below. The landlords denied any liability under Defective Premises Act 1972 s1 because they had undertaken no works to the cellar. It was held on an application for an award of interim damages that s1 applies to both damage caused by the actual work and damage caused by failure to undertake necessary works.

See case history for; Mirza v Bhandal August 1999 Legal Action 24, QBD and also  PTillott v Jackson [ 999] CL 0, Birmingham County Court.

Section 1 does not apply to fixtures added to property after it was built The defendant sold a house to the plaintiff. Soon after the sale was completed the purchaser alleged that the boiler, which had been fitted long after the construction of the house, had been negligently installed by the defendant’s agent. HHJ Durman dismissed the claim. Defective Premises Act 1972 s1 does not apply to fixtures added to a property after it was built.

Court of Appeal Adams v Rhymney Valley DC (200 ) HLR 44 , CA

Council not in breach of duty of care in installing windows according to standards at time of installation The council installed double-glazing with locks that had removable keys rather than button locks. The claimant tenant’s family kept the windows locked as a safety measure and hung the key in the kitchen. In the course of a fire, the family was unable to escape through the locked windows and three children died. The council owed a duty of care because they had fitted the windows (Rimmer v Liverpool CC (P7.13)). The claimant took proceedings for damages for negligence and breach of statutory duty. The Court of Appeal held that the landlord was not in breach of duty. The council was to be judged according to the standards of the reasonably skilful window designer and installer at the date of installation. At the time of installation button locks and key locks were not negligent choices for window security. There was no breach in opting for one rather than the other. The design of the windows did not oblige the local authority to install a smoke alarm.

P10.2 Alker v Collingwood Housing Association [2007] EWCA Ci 4 ; [2007] HLR 29; [2007] L&TR 2 ; 7 February 2007, CA

A duty to maintain and repair did not encompass a duty to make property safe The claimant was a tenant of the defendant landlord. Her front door contained a glass panel. When having difficulties opening the door one day she pushed the glass panel with her hand. The glass broke and she received serious injuries to her forearm. A clause in the tenancy agreement required the claimant to grant entry to her landlord to inspect and carry out repairs and improvements. A repairing covenant included the provision that her landlord must keep the property ‘in good condition’. The claimant made a claim for breach of Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 s11 and breach of statutory duty under Defective Premises Act 1972 s4. In the county court, Recorder Clayton QC found that: the glass panel in the door was not safety glass but ordinary annealed glass; it was not broken or in disrepair; the use of ordinary annealed glass in doors presents a safety hazard and that had been understood since at least 1963; the property had been constructed in accordance with the building regulations in existence at the time. He held that the landlord was not on actual notice of any disrepair to the front door and dismissed the claim under s11 but held the landlord liable for breach of the statutory duty of care under s4. The landlord appealed. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. The issue was whether the state of the glass panel constituted a ‘relevant defect’ for the purposes of s4(3). The glass panel was not in disrepair. The court rejected the claimant’s
submission that it was nevertheless a relevant defect because it was dangerous and the obligation to maintain and to keep in good condition included an obligation to make the property safe. A duty to repair, maintain or keep in good condition did not equate to a duty to put in a safe condition. A property may offer many hazards, but s4 does not necessarily require a landlord to make safe a dangerous feature. Parliament, when enacting the Defective Premises Act 1972, chose to link the duty of care imposed by s4(1) to the landlord’s failure to carry out an obligation ‘for the
maintenance or repair’ of the premises rather than link the duty of care to a failure to remedy defects in any more general sense.

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